Summary: Dean's trip back to the real world doesn't go quite as smoothly as they hoped. AU to WIAWSN with a limp!Sam twist. Co-written with faye dartmouth.

Co-written by faye darmouth and sendintheclowns

Hold On Tight To Your Dreams

Dean was an idiot sometimes.

He loved Dean, trusted Dean, respected Dean, but sometimes Dean was an absolute idiot.

How hard is it to wait a day? How hard is it to swing by and pick him up? How hard is it to not go running in, unprepared, into the lair of something they've never gone up against before? How hard is it to just listen to him every now and then?

Sam paced the room, back and forth, willing his cell phone to ring. It'd been nearly 40 minutes. He should have called back by now. He should have at least answered his phone--

And that was the clincher. It wasn't unlike Dean to go running off without thinking, to leap before he looked. It wasn't unlike Dean to not tell him all the details, to not make sure he knew where he was. But it was unlike his brother to not answer his cell phone. Dean always answered. They both did. It was just courtesy. Because not answering could mean...

Sam shook his head. He wouldn't think it. Couldn't think it.

He fingered his own phone nervously, checking the screen. No new calls. No missed messages. The signal was strong and clear.

He dialed Dean's number again--the first entry in his speed dial.

Holding the cell to his ear, he paced to the window again, looking out.

"Come on," he muttered at the ringing. "Pick up. Pick up, Dean."

Voicemail.

Sam flung the phone onto the bed and lashed his foot out at the wall. He felt a suspicious burning behind his eyes. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong and he didn't know where his brother was.

He took a breath, willed himself to calm. Freaking out wasn't helping anything. No, what he needed to do was go find Dean. He had to get his crap together, and go find his brother and haul his ass back here and tie him to the bed.

He had to find his brother. He wasn't just going to sit here and wait--not anymore.

Moving to the table, he slapped the laptop closed. Luckily, research wasn't a problem--he'd spent all night reading everything about this stuff. He knew how to kill the djinn, assuming that was what they were dealing with here (and he couldn't really entertain anything to the contrary at this point). And he knew Dean was probably in one of two places--he may not have gone out with his brother, but Google Earth had been handy in the 45 minutes since his brother's last call. There were only two places that fit the bill within the radius he'd last heard from Dean--both abandoned warehouses, and he had no doubt his brother would have scoped them out as the most likely lairs for their supernatural friend. Now he needed to "appropriate" some wheels, temporarily, and find his brother.

His impulsive, reckless, brash, foolhardy, idiot of a brother.

Whipping through the motel room, he stuffed various weapons into a bag before stepping outside.

Of course Dean would have the Impala and it's not like public buses ran at night. A taxi would take too long and walking was out of the question. That meant...

He sighed, but didn't hesitate. He was already wanted by the FBI--what was one more felony?

The sun had set an hour ago and the parking lot lights were shining brightly on two cars. Contestant number one was something that almost didn't pass for a car -- a Pepto Bismal colored Cadillac sporting the vanity tag 'I LUV Mary K'. This vehicle screamed look at me and was in no way suitable.

Sam turned toward the only other option nearby. It was a cute little Mini Cooper. Little being the operative word. How on earth would Sam jam his legs under the dashboard? Taking a deep breath, Sam approached the tiny blue car with a white racing stripe down its center. He'd do whatever it took to find Dean.

The parking lot was silent and the highway seemed deserted. The motel was mostly empty anyway, but Sam kept himself discrete anyway.

With an air of nonchalance, he approached the car, but there was a hint of urgency in his step. He may not want to get caught, but finding Dean was his ultimate purpose, and if he had been caught by the djinn, Sam had to move fast, stolen car or not.

Dropping to his knees, he pulled out a pick. In less than 30 seconds he was opening the door. So much for anti-theft security--things like that meant nothing to the Winchesters. Next he leaned over and dug around under the dashboard, pulling a fistful of wires down. Striking two of them together, he was gratified when the engine turned over and caught.

Stuffing himself into the car, Sam jammed the seat back as far as it would go, and engaged the clutch. His knees were practically around his ears which made shifting almost impossible.

Dean, I'm going to kill you when I find you.

He clenched his jaw, and his heart skipped a beat.

Please let me find you. Alive.

Sam slammed down hard on the gas and squealed out of the parking lot.

-o-

It was hard not to drive straight to the first warehouse, but he wasn't ready--yet. Everything inside of him ached for his brother--knowing Dean was in trouble was nearly paralyzing. He couldn't even breathe right and his mind was a little fuzzy.

But he couldn't walk into a hunt or a rescue operation unprepared. He couldn't save Dean if he didn't kill the thing first. And to kill it he needed blood.

Human blood actually would have been easy--after all, he had a whole supply right under his skin. But lamb's blood...that was another story.

In good circumstances, he'd scope out a vet school, do it a cleaner, less questionable way.

These weren't good circumstances.

There was a farm right off the highway, and he could smell the livestock from the road. The farmhouse lights were off and he killed his lights as he pulled up. He parked the car under a tree and slipped out soundlessly, the knife and a spare jar in hand. He could see the barn looming in the distance, and he could only hope that sheep would be there.

This wasn't part of the job he'd ever enjoyed or gotten used to, but it didn't matter. For Dean's life, nothing else mattered.

It only took thirty minutes, but when Sam climbed back into the car, the jar was full and he was ready.

-o-

The first warehouse was a bust. Nothing was there--literally. The space was wide and open and littered with beer bottles and cigarette butts. No hiding places. No djinns. Most importantly, no Dean.

He'd almost been reluctant to leave--terrified he'd missed something--but Dean had been gone nearly an hour and a half now, and that was too long. If Dean had been taken or captured...

Sam wouldn't entertain the possibility. Not at all.

He clutched the steering wheel of the little car, pushing it well beyond the speed limit. The other warehouse was a few miles away. Too many miles.

It was the djinn, it had to be. There was too much about them they didn't know yet. They could have powers beyond what Sam had read about. Dean might not have been prepared...

What would the djinn do to Dean? Suck his life? Drain him? Grant him a wish?

That was a thought. It was a genie. It killed people, but it killed them after granting their wishes. It fulfilled fantasies, probably to preoccupy the victim while it drained them dry.

Was that what had happened? It had offered Dean a wish and Dean had taken it?

He pressed his foot harder on the accelerator.

A wish that could kill his brother.

Knowing Dean, he'd probably wished for an entire sorority house full of girls to pass his time with, or a sexy girl and something to kill.

The thought that Dean could be happy was some consolation, but not much. Because he couldn't let Dean die for something like that. He couldn't let Dean die at all. He just couldn't.

And wasn't that just it. Sam couldn't let Dean be happy--ever. All the times this past year Dean had wanted out, Dean had wanted to have fun, and Sam had dragged him back. Dean could have moved on for good if not for Sam. It was Sam and his destiny that kept them here. Sam and his destiny that had the Demon after them. Sam and his destiny that killed Mom, and Dad, taking away any chance at happiness they could have had.

Tears blurred Sam's eyes but he didn't slow down. He didn't care. Selfish one or not, he would save his brother.

-o-

The Impala was parked outside the second warehouse and it took everything Sam had inside of him not to charge in blindly. Because it was his brother's car, which meant Dean was there, Dean was here, Dean was inside.

Sam dialed Dean's number again, just to be sure. He didn't want to run in there if Dean was fine. If Dean was okay...

Voicemail.

Sam swallowed hard against the pain in his chest.

This was not good.

He was shaking as he gathered his supplies. He pocketed a gun--his revolver, filled with iron rounds (these things were corporeal), though there was no evidence they could be killed with bullets. Then he reached for his knife, snagging the jar of blood as he went. Opening it, he dipped in the blade, coating it thoroughly. He tightened the lid again and shoved it in his pocket just in case.

Forcing himself to be stealthy despite the urgency burning in his stomach, he exited the car and approached the warehouse. Crickets chirped in the distance, but all else was silent. The door he found was already open, hanging loosely off its hinges.

Sam forced himself to stay calm.

Knife clenched in his fist, he went in, keeping his back to the wall, the best defensive position he could find.

This warehouse, unlike the last, was clearly a perfect lair. Divided into a series of rooms and corridors, the spaces were large, but not totally barren. Sweeping it was easy enough, made quicker by a distinct lack of concealed nooks and crannies--it meant less places to look for bodies. The rooms flowed one to the next, an intricate pattern that would work to the djinn's advantage, making it unlikely that even someone who stumbled onto the place would wander far enough in to discover what truly lurked there.

It was hard to go slow. Hard not to scream Dean's name. But if the djinn was here, he had to be careful. The thing had to be good--had to be clever--otherwise it never would have caught Dean.

His mind raced, keeping pace with his heart. What if he was too late? What if Dean was already dead?

He knew it wasn't likely, not with what he'd read. Djinn liked to feed off victims for awhile, using them sparingly to sustain themselves. He knew Dean was probably alive--but not well off. The thought of his brother hurt in here--it made him cold inside. Cold and angry.

Room after room, he came up empty. Panic crept into his movements.

He knew, though, as soon as he walked through the next doorway, that he'd found it. He had to navigate around equipment, abandoned casing and ironwork, but there, in a neat row, hung the bodies.

The bodies.

Sam's heart just about stopped.

Bodies.

Some decomposed. Some still getting there.

Then there. On the end.

Dean.

Sam didn't even think. Couldn't think. All his plans, all his training, all his strategy went out the window and he was running. Running for his brother.

He stopped short of his brother, dumbfounded by the state he found him in.

Dean was pale--ghastly pale--nearly colorless. He was hanging by his wrists, slumped in his bonds, and hooked up to some kind of dirty IV. Filled with blood. Dean's blood.

Shaking, Sam's hand went out, tentatively brushing his brother's skin, and he shivered. It was like ice.

Pressing down on Dean's bruised neck, Sam felt for a pulse, straining to find it over the pounding of his own heart.

But it was there.

It was there.

The relief that washed over him was brief and bittersweet. Dean was alive--but far from okay.

"Dean," he called, his voice soft. "Hey, Dean."

There was no response.

Sam frowned, his concern ratcheting up a notch. He lifted his brother's head, inspecting it. Underneath his brother's partially shut lids, his eyes were active, as if in sleep.

Dreaming. Dean was dreaming.

The wish. That was how it fulfilled the wishes. It just made the victim think it had been given a wish. And its victims, lost in their fantasies, offered no resistance.

It was brilliant, in the worst possible way.

He needed to wake Dean up. The longer Dean stayed asleep, the more power the djinn had over him. He needed to break Dean from the wish, and then Dean could be wake up, Dean could be okay.

It could work. It had to.

"Dean, hey. Come on, man, you need to wake up," he whispered, leaning in close. He fondled the needle in his neck, wincing as he pulled it out.

He reached the knife upward to untie his brother. Dean," he tried again, letting the knife slice into the rope. He needed to get Dean out of here. "Dean."

The ropes gave, and Dean slumped forward, and Sam struggled to catch him. He had no choice but to take them both to the ground. "Dean, come on, I need you to wake up," he said, almost begging now.

With Dean on the floor, he tapped his brother's face, shook him. "Dean!"

He was too loud--he knew it the second he saw the movement out of the corner of his eye. He'd brought the thing straight to him--straight to Dean--and from the looks of things, Dean was still too out of it to defend himself.

Luckily, it was coming for him.

He lunged out of the way, falling back from his brother's body, knife still in hand. The more distance between Dean and the djinn the better. He could only hope there was enough blood left on the blade to finish the job, but he didn't have time to check. Didn't have time for much of anything at all.

It came at him, and he swung--but wildly--his aim was off in his desperation and fear. All he wanted to do was be with Dean, to wake Dean up, to make sure he was okay--

It caught him, pushing him hard against a wall. Sam tried to bring the knife in for the kill, but it was too strong. A few hard hits to his arm and Sam's hand loosened involuntarily, sending the knife clattering to the ground.

Angry, he kicked out, ducking and rolling away, catching a glimpse of Dean as he did.

Wait, was that movement? Was there a flinch?

Sam's heart stilled in anticipation and his hesitation cost him. He didn't dodge the next blow and it sent him reeling into the metal workings of the room.

He hit hard--twice, his head clunking loudly.

Darkness erupted behind his eyes and he couldn't feel his body for a brief second.

When he could, he was rolled onto his back and the djinn was on top of him.

It looked uglier than the pictures, covered in tattoos with a leering face that was far too human looking. Its bald head shined under the distant lights and its calloused hand was around his throat.

He struggled, mostly for air though, when he saw its other hand begin its journey towards him. The hand was blue, glowing, ethereal.

Realization flooded Sam. This was how it gavewishes. It didn't give a choice. It just attacked and put the victim under. It made perfect sense. Dean would never leave him voluntarily; he would have had to be coerced.

The knowledge didn't help him now. Because if he didn't do something fast, he would find himself stuck in a dream world all his own, and his brother would be doomed.

He needed the knife.

In the scuffle, he'd lost track of it, but it couldn't be far...could it? It was hard to see, hard to move, and one hand was needed to push the glowing hand back, to give him some time.

His other hand grappled the ground, looking for something, anything.

It closed around something solid and he didn't hesitate. Swinging it, he made contact with the djinn, dazing it slightly.

It wasn't a lot, but it was enough for Sam to squirm free.

His head spun, vision tunneling slightly, but he had no time for that. No time to check on Dean even. His only hope was to kill the thing, kill it quick, before it could get to him, before it could get back to Dean.

His mind raced, trying to remember. The wall. He fumbled to the wall, all too aware that the djinn was up and charging after him.

There. A glint of silver. The knife.

He grabbed it, still on his knees, barely turning in time to see the blue light coming at him.

He thrust, praying that his aim was true.

As his eyes finally focused, he saw the djinn, a look of pain twisted on its features, the blue light of its hand flickering and fading, as it fell to the floor in a heap.

It was several seconds before Sam remember to breathe again.

Only a few more before he remembered his brother.

"Dean."

Dean was still where he fell, but his head was moving--just barely, but it was something.

On hands and knees, Sam moved, breathless and desperate. He dropped the knife to grab his brother's shoulder. "Dean," he called, his voice loud, almost shrill now. "Come on, Dean. It's gone. You just got to wake up. Please, you need to wake up."

He had hoped for a reaction, but he wasn't expecting Dean to explode into action. Startled, he twisted away, moving to defend himself. When he turned back toward his brother, Dean was brandishing a knife in his right hand--the knife Sam had discarded after stabbing the genie.

Dean's eyes were still glazed and he was mumbling under his breath--he wasn't out of it yet. Sam muffled a curse. He'd hoped with the djinn's death, the victims would be released, that Dean would wake up.

Apparently that was not the case. The djinn's power must set the wish in motion, but the victim was the one who chose to stay. Sam had no way of knowing what Dean was imagining or how to bring him back. He just knew he needed to bring him back.

Standing now, Sam edged forward tentatively, careful not to spook his brother. He'd already been sloppy enough--now Dean was armed and incoherent, which wasn't a promising combination. Sam had his pistol, but he wasn't about to use that on his brother. No, Sam needed to get through to his brother. He needed to make sure he would be okay.

Dean's eyes were ringed with exhaustion and his skin was pallid and sagging. Whatever he was dreaming, whatever wish he was stuck in--he wasn't happy, and he wasn't out of it yet.

Sam spoke in his most reassuring voice, not wanting to startle his brother. "Dean, it's me, Sam. The djinn is dead. Give me the knife," he said, holding out his hand. "Please."

His brother frowned at him, blinking, and for a moment Sam thought he was coming out of his dream world. Dean reached out with his free hand and Sam shot forward to pull his brother into a hug. Everything was going to be okay now.

Sam wasn't prepared for the pain that shot into his stomach. It set his teeth on edge and stole his breath. He looked down to see a jagged tear in his shirt.

Well, at least Dean had given him the knife. Right in the stomach.

He collapsed on his side, shocked at the dampness under his fingers as well as the fact that his own brother had stabbed him. Looking up, he search Dean's face, but saw no recognition. He still wore the same glazed, empty, half-dead look.

Sam grimaced as he clutched his stomach. Peeling back his shirt, he saw a thin line of blood which was rapidly pooling and coating his skin. He prodded it for a moment. With the shock of the injury wearing off, he could see it more clearly now. It hurt like a bitch, but it wasn't very deep.

He needed a moment to push the pain back and then he needed to get Dean out of here.

-o-

Dean wanted to stay. He wanted this to be real. He wanted his mother, he wanted a girlfriend, he wanted Sam to be happy.

He could fix this even; he could make it better. He could make amends with Sam, and then his life would be perfect. He would get his life together, he'd ask Carmen to marry him, they'd have kids and a house and it could work. It could.

Except it wasn't real.

These people weren't real.

And that made him want to hate them. Hate them for trying to keep him. For trying to keep him from saving lives. For trying to keep him away from his Sam.

But he couldn't hate them. Not when they wore the faces of people that he loved, people that he needed--real or not, he couldn't hate them--

"I'm sorry," he said, backing away slowly, the knife clutched with a new ferocity. "I have to do this."

It was Sam who stepped forward, and he looked so real, so like his Sam. Donning Sam's puppy dog eyes. "Dean, please."

No. No one could use his brother like this. No one could make his brother do this. This wasn't Sam.

"You're going to kill yourself for no reason," this Sam said. "You can't leave me alone. I need you."

Dean shook his head, suddenly disgusted that he'd ever wanted to stay. "You don't need me. You're not real."

"Dean--"

And that was all Dean heard, all Dean could stomach. Lunging forward, he thrust the knife out. If he could kill the dream, he could wake up. If he could kill everything good in here, he'd have no choice but to wake up.

The knife found purchase and his world shifted violently. The room spun, lights flashed. He was hot, then cold, then hot again, before ice overwhelmed him and darkness prevailed.

-o-

When he opened his eyes, he was in the warehouse, but a different warehouse. The real warehouse.

He was awake. The air smelled rancid and real. He was alive.

Then he looked around.

He was still holding the knife. It was coated with blood, in his right hand.

His eyes went forward. Sam was sprawled at his feet, arm curled protectively around his middle.

But it wasn't real. Sam hadn't been real. He'd only stabbed the fake Sam...

"Dean?"

Sam sounded scared, worried, relieved...

"Sam?"

Sam smiled a little. "You back with me?"

Horror washed over him. "Sam!"

Dean dropped to his knees, woozy and still a bit disoriented, and reached out for his brother.

Sam pushed himself to his knees, one hand still clutching his stomach, and grabbed Dean's shoulder with the other. "Are you okay? I thought I was too late."

Dean was briefly overcome with emotion and closed his eyes as the full weight of the night's events crashed down on him. He had ignored Sam's suggestion to pick him up first before checking out this location and had stumbled into the djinn's lair, totally unprepared. Like a bumbling rookie.

Dean blinked his eyes open. Sam was here before him, looking all concerned and angst ridden, worry shining out of his bright eyes.

And Sam had saved his life.

"Jesus, Sam, I didn't know it was you. I could hear you, but I didn't think it was really you. I mean I thought it was you, but not the real you. You know what I mean?" Dean asked, wincing as he heard the words tumbling out of his mouth incoherently.

Apparently Sam thought he sounded incoherent as well because he angled his free hand under Dean's elbow before helping him to his feet. "Come on," he said. "We need to get you out of here."

Dean allowed himself to be tugged to his feet, reeling a little at the change in position, and got a good look at Sam.

His brother was pale and sweaty, weaving a bit himself, but he was radiating concern for Dean. If Sam was hurting, though, the kid was doing a good job of hiding it. Sam had straightened himself and found his feet, moving himself to take more of Dean's weight.

But Sam couldn't hide the smudge of blood staining his shirt, though his massive hand seemed to try to. Dean's mind struggled to make sense of it all. What had happened?

He could remember the djinn--just barely--the horrific creature and the blue light that he'd seen before he'd woken up back in Lawrence. With his mother. His wish come true. His mother was alive, the demon wasn't after them. His father had lived a long and peaceful life. Sam was pursuing his dreams, getting ready to marry Jessica. Even he was happy--a good place to live, a good job, a beautiful girlfriend who loved him.

But it hadn't meant anything. Not when there was a world out there with people dying without his help. Not when he knew his brother, his real brother might be out there, alone. Not when he still had to save people, save Sam. He'd fight anyone who got in the way of himself and his brother. Even a false version of his brother.

And then it hit him. Not all of it had been a dream. "I did this?" He reached out and tried to touch Sam's flat, blood stained stomach, but his brother promptly batted his hand away.

"We need to get you out of here," Sam insisted.

Dean dug his heels in as Sam starting pulling him toward the door. "Wait. Your wound, let me look at it." He may have not wounded his brother badly, but he wasn't going to let it go unchecked.

"It's just a scratch," Sam deflected, his voice reassuringly strong, steadily pulling him toward the exit. "You're the one who almost got sucked bone dry by the djinn. Next time I ask you to wait, you better wait."

To that, Dean had no arguments, and he had to admit, he was feeling pretty lightheaded. His body felt achy and empty, as though he hadn't eaten or slept in weeks. Sam seemed to be handling this okay, so maybe he would just let his brother lead...just for a bit.

His brother was steering him through the bodies hanging like slabs of beef on hooks, horror flooding him as he realized that only moments before he had been one of the slabs himself. He shuddered at the image.

Then he saw one that looked familiar--too familiar. It was her. The girl from his dreams. She'd been one of the things to help bring him back--he couldn't just leave her there.

"Stop! That's her," Dean said, shaking loose from his brother's grip and staggering over to a girl with dark long hair. He reached out and felt a light pulse. "She's alive."

He pulled the port out of her neck and was fumbling with the bonds securing her to the ceiling when he was gently edged to the side.

"I've got her. Go, Dean. We're right behind you," Sam said, pulling the girl into his arms.

Dean wanted to protest, wanted to have some part in this escape, but he could barely keep himself upright--carrying the girl would have been too much. It was Sam's night to play the hero, and Dean would let him, if only because that meant he'd heal enough to take the role back again.

They struggled up the stairs, Dean's hand at Sam's elbow this time. It wasn't so much that he needed the help--sure, he was tired, exhausted, but it felt so good to be near Sam, to touch Sam, to have Sam be real again. Sam didn't comment, just met his eyes with a certainty that Dean had missed, and he led them all out, Dean limping behind, the girl pale in Sam's arms. As they burst out into the darkness of the night, he followed as Sam marched over to a blue Mini Cooper. His brother carefully deposited the girl on the hood of the car.

"Give me the keys to the Impala. I need to find a pay phone and call in a tip--we don't want our number in the system. She needs help but we can't stay here," Sam stated, holding his hand out for the keys.

Dean was too tired to argue. Reaching into his pocket, he extracted his keys, then he slapped them into Sam's hand. He needed to make sure his little brother was okay but his mind was foggy and Sam was taking charge so he let him. For now.

"I'll be right back," Sam said. "You want to stay here with her?"

How Sam knew he wanted that, Dean would never know. But he nodded, tightly, and watched as his brother drove off.

Alone, Dean turned his attention to the girl, still sprawled on the hood of the car. He struggled over to her, looking at her--her pale features, her partially open eyes glazed and distant.

Is that what he looked like? Is this how Sam had found him? How had he let this happen?

Gently, he reached a hand out to her, smoothing away her mussed hair. "Hey, you're okay now," he whispered. "You can wake up now. This time for real."

She turned to his voice, moaning--a throaty, broken sound.

"You're okay," he promised. "Everything will be okay. But you need to wake up."

He didn't know if it was true. He didn't know if she was too far gone, if she could hear him, if she could be saved. But he came back to save people, to save Sam, and this is where it started. This is where it had to start again. He needed to see her eyes to know it was worth it in the end.

"Dad?" she murmured, her head rolling again.

"Yeah," Dean answered softly. "Yeah, honey, wake up."

Her eyes blink, once, twice, and this time when she looked up, her eyes were clear. "Dad?"

Dean wanted to smile, but didn't quite make it. "You're okay," he said again.

Her eyes filled with tears and she looked scared, confused. "What...happened?"

"It was a dream," he said. "It was a dream."

She turned her head away. "I want my dad..."

Dean wondered suddenly if her dad was alive, if he'd been part of her wish, if she had wanted to come back at all. He stroked her hair again, murmuring words of soft encouragement, while tears leaked from her eyes.

"Daddy..."

And all Dean could think was how lucky he was. How lucky he was that Sam came to look for him. That he had Sam at all. That all the wishes in the world didn't mean anything in comparison to the reality he shared with his brother. It wasn't easy, it wasn't pretty, but it was all he had. Sam was all he had.

-o-

Sam returned ten minutes later. He said the police were on their way, and an ambulance was too. The girl had fallen asleep, drifting into a healing sleep, and Dean was ready to leave.

Sam wiped down the Mini Cooper and then manned the driver's seat of the Impala. Dean relaxed into the passenger's seat, wondering how he'd ever forgotten the smell of its interior. He wanted to close his eyes, to sleep, but he let his eyes drift to his brother.

It never ceased to amaze him how good Sam was at this. How, despite his whole protective big brother kick, Sam saved him more times than he could count. Even now, Sam's face was focused and determined, though he still seemed oddly hunched over, a hand lingering over his stomach.

"You okay?" Sam asked as he pulled away.

Dean didn't know quite how to answer.

"Dean?" Sam asked again, casting a concern glance at him.

"Yeah," Dean finally replied. "I'm just ready to get out of here."

Sam merely nodded, pressing his foot to the pedal, taking them as fast as he could back to the motel.

-o-

By the time he'd checked Dean over, confirmed his level of awareness to be adequate, and filled him up with orange juice and Gatorade, he'd been exhausted. His injury wasn't deep, but it was throbbing a bit, so he was relieved when he'd finally pushed Dean into the shower.

When he heard the water running, he sank into a chair, not having the strength or will to move. At that point, he wasn't sure if it was the injury or just the night's events catching up with him. He'd spent hours researching, pouring over books, trying to nail down what it was they were hunting. When Dean had gone missing, all sense of planning and strategy had left him, and he'd been scrambling ever since.

The night was gone, and the morning was approaching. With it, exhaustion was setting in with the realization of just how close this had been.

Dean knew better than to head off on his own. It was such a rookie mistake. They were past it by now--they had to be. More and more, though, ever since their dad had died, Sam suspected that Dean had a latent death wish and was purposefully putting himself in harm's way--as if to prove his worth, to make the cosmic scorecard right that had let him live and his father die.

That scared Sam more than he could say, and the last thing he wanted to do was push Dean away. Not now. Not after everything. Not when he was all he had left.

He was still propped up when Dean exited the bathroom, looking clean and revived.

Dean looked at him funny, and the first thing his brother asked was, "Are you sure you don't need stitches?"

Sam realized that he was still cradling a hand over the wound on his stomach. Looking down, he could see that the area on his t-shirt was red. It hadn't spread much since they got back, but it certainly wasn't pretty looking.

Sam had cleaned it out and dressed it himself while Dean was replacing fluids. It wasn't too deep and he hadn't thought it needed stitches--just a good cleaning out and a bandage, both of which he'd already taken care of.

It hurt, though, more than Sam would have expected. But the last thing he wanted to do was to remind Dean of what had happened. Sam had shot Dean--twice--and beat him to hell once, so one stabbing certainly didn't seem worth bringing up. "No, man, I'm good. I cleaned it out good and it doesn't even need stitches," he said. "You feeling better?"

Dean gathered his bag from the floor. "Tired," he said. "But warmer. Much warmer. I feel like I could eat a friggin' horse."

Sam's body gave an involuntarily spasm. A tingly sensation in his stomach turned more violent, as if a sparkler was inside of him, burning him from within. He grimaced, hoping to hold it in.

"You look a little pale yourself, kiddo," Dean commented as he struggled into some clean clothes.

The pain was sharp, then throbbing, and it took his breath away. "You want to go get something to eat?" he managed to ask, blinking up at his brother.

Dean shook his head. "I think you need to sleep," Dean said. "Looks like you didn't get much last night."

"Neither did you," Sam countered. He could still sense a distance in Dean's voice, a darkness in his brother's disposition. Though he'd asked, Dean hadn't been forthcoming on the nature of the wish or why he'd left. Sam wanted to prod, wanted to ask more questions, but he'd been more worried about Dean's physical state. They could handle the emotions over time. If Dean ever admitted them, that was.

"Dude, I think I got more sleep than I need for a lifetime." Dean shook his head, snorting in a forced casualness. "I just want to eat. You stay here, get some sleep, okay? I'll be back in a bit."

The idea of Dean walking out that door was not a promising one. He'd nearly lost his brother--he didn't want to take anymore chances. "This coming from the man who just escaped a blood thirsty djinn. Are you sure you're okay?"

Sam wasn't ready to believe Dean was okay, that it was over, but as he looked his brother up and down, he had to admit he looked much better. His natural vitality seemed to be coming back in full force again, even if his emotions weren't up to par.

"Relax. The fluids really helped. Do you want anything?" Dean asked, drawing his leather jacket on.

"I'm good, thanks. Just be careful," he answered. Dean needed space, time, freedom. And as much as Sam hated to admit it, he needed sleep.

Dean exited the motel room in a flurry. Sam sighed, still seated in the chair. He drew in a sharp breath as molten lava rolled through his abdomen. That certainly didn't feel natural at all. Maybe something had broken off inside of him, though he couldn't imagine what. Maybe he'd missed something when cleaning it out. But something was wrong, that much he knew. Every little movement set off a fierce, tearing sensation that burned through him without mercy. He felt like his insides were literally melting.

He carefully pulled himself to his feet, leaning heavily on the table to get his balance, before pushing off toward his bed. Staggering over he dropped down onto the soft mattress.

Acid. It felt like acid was swishing around inside of him, setting everything it touched on fire. He couldn't stand it any longer.

Leaning up against the headboard he braced himself before clawing at the wound across his abdomen. He had to get inside and fix the problem.

-o-

Dean had enjoyed a leisurely meal at the diner across the street. The waitress had given him an appraising look when he ordered a dinner at five in the morning. Dean couldn't care less. He just wanted to eat. A bloody rib-eye, baked potato and slice of cherry pie later, and he felt like he could go another round with the next supernatural being to cross their paths.

Or face his brother. He could tell that Sam had been holding something back, probably dying to chastise Dean for his stupidity, but instead was more concerned about his health and well being. But he knew it was only a matter of time before Sam laid into him. He knew if the roles had been reversed he probably would have tanned Sam's hide by now.

Unlocking the motel room door, Dean was overcome by the sensation that something was very, very wrong. He wasn't sure what it was at first--something in the way it smelled, something in the way Sam was sprawled on his bed, just something.

Then he looked at Sam.

His brother was lying on the bed, his hand thrust deep into his abdominal cavity. He appeared to be poking around for something and with every twitch of his hand, an agonized look overtook his brother's features. Blood oozed out and slicked everything in its path--Sam's hand, his body, the bed beneath.

Dean's first impulse was to run into the bathroom and vomit. There was too much blood and it was all wrong--he'd seen gore before, but not like that, not on his brother. Running wouldn't help Sam, though. And Sam had to be his priority. Shucking off his jacket and carefully setting his keys down, he forced himself to take several deep breathes.

"Sam, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Dean asked as he approached the bed cautiously. He said it in his most impersonal, conversational tone. Everything inside of him wanted to panic, to shake his brother and demand answers, but something was just not right and he couldn't risk spooking Sam in his attempts to find out. After all, digging around in one's own stomach with a hand was not normal behavior. This didn't bode well for his brother's mental well-being, much less his physical status.

Sam jumped as he heard Dean's voice. A look of intense guilt flashed in Sam's eyes as he pulled his blood stained hand out of the cavity he'd assiduously created while Dean was away and ineffectually patted at the blood welling across his body. The kid seemed to be trying his best not to look guilty, but there was no shaking the way Sam looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar...so to speak.

"I can't get it out. It hurts, Dean," Sam said, mournfully turning his large blue-green eyes toward his brother. He was pleading, nearly begging, but his voice was weak. "Help me."

Dean's calm was rapidly fading. The scene before him was simply too gruesome. The sight of Sam with his hand immersed in his own body--it was wrong, sickening, and downright terrifying. And Dean knew--it was all his fault. His fault for stabbing Sam, his fault for going after the djinn by himself in the first place, and now Sam was paying the price.

He could take no more, and, by the look of it, Sam couldn't take much more either.

Sam shifted and hissed in pain before plunging his hand back into the widened orifice. The knife had done some damage, but clearly Sam had seemed set on doing more. Enough damage had been done--Dean wouldn't allow anymore.

"No!" Dean said, moving forward faster now, gripping Sam's arm above the elbow and forcing Sam's hand free from his body. "Sam, stop it!"

Once again he had to swallow back the nausea. The smell of blood permeated the air. Blood was streaked wherever Dean looked.

Sam struggled futilely in his brother's grip, his left hand joining in the fight. Dean easily captured that hand as well and soon had both of his brother's hands caught in his left as he tugged the leather belt out of his jean loops with his right.

He couldn't look at Sam's wound until his brother was subdued. He quickly wrapped his belt around his brother's wrists before securing the other end of the belt around the ornate headboard. If Sam had been at full strength, the bonds would have never held, but his brother was weakened from blood loss and who knew what else.

Sam weakly kicked his legs out and Dean quickly pinned them down by kneeling on them.

"Dammit, Sam. Just sit still. Let me see what's wrong," Dean whispered urgently.

He hated like hell that he had just trussed Sam up like a roped calf, but he didn't know what else to do.

Sam panted, straining at this bonds, but didn't try to buck Dean off his legs. His eyes followed Dean's every move but he kept quiet.

Clearly his little brother was tiring. Either that, or it was a sign that he was deteriorating even more. Dean needed to act--fast--before Sam got worse than he already was.

Stealing himself, Dean carefully touched the skin around the oozing wound and tugged it apart.

He gagged in earnest as he saw the damage.

There was no way Sam had caused this kind of extensive tissue destruction. Everything Dean could see was hot to the touch and swollen. The tissue itself was purplish or black in color. Dead tissue. Sam was dying from the inside out.

Sam tugged at the leather encircling his wrists one more time before gasping and closing his eyes. Tears leaked down his face as Dean tried to pull the skin surrounding the hideous wound back into place.

Dean absently wiped his hands on his thighs. A simple knife wound hadn't caused this, but something had. Dean ground the palms of his hands over his eyes and commanded himself to think. What else had the knife touched?

Of course! The knife had touched the djinn. And if he remembered correctly, the blood of the djinn was poisonous to the touch. By slicing Sam open with the knife, he'd managed to infect him with the toxic blood of a supernatural being.

Guilt crashed through, staggering him. He wanted to bury his head in his hands and cry. Or tip his head back and howl in rage. He'd done this. It was up to him to fix it. But how?

Djinns were spirits. He could perform a cleansing ritual. He knew his father had used several in his time, and all Dean needed was to find one to clear the body of spiritual influences. Reaching over Sam, he plucked his father's journal from the nightstand and set to flipping through it. He knew it was there, he just had to find it--fast.

His fingers stumbled to the page, and Dean began reading quickly. Indeed, his father had several listed, some more complicated than others, some with more specific aims--some for wounds inflicted by dead flesh, others for blood contamination. There was no way to know for sure exactly how to classify Sam's injury, so Dean chose the broadest one he could find--one that seemed to cover all the bases.

It was relatively simple--short and to the point. Dean swallowed hard. It was also the most painful.

Casting a glance at his brother, Dean felt his stomach turn. Sam had been through enough already, and now Dean had to put him through more. If there was any other option, Dean would take it in an instant. But there wasn't.

Resigned, Dean set to gather his supplies. Holy water. They had to have holy water. They always carried some with them.

He slid off of Sam and stumbled over to their bags. Upending several, he finally found the jars of holy water. Masking tape in Sam's scrawling hand writing proclaimed each jar's origin and the date they had acquired it.

Rushing back to the bed he found Sam's glazed eyes following him. He didn't look scared. He didn't look mad. He looked resigned. Pliant and limp, Sam no longer jerked at the leather and his hands lay slack.

"Don't you dare give up, Sammy," Dean snapped at his brother.

Dean quickly unscrewed the cap of one jar and, saying a short blessing Father Jim had taught them as boys, he dumped the contents into the grisly wound on Sam's once perfect body.

Sam's body tensed as a hissing sound filled the air and tendrils of smoke bubbled up from the wound.

Dean cringed in sympathy. There was no getting around it -- holy water plus skin infected with evil equaled a huge helping of hurt. Looking at Sam's face, Dean wasn't pleased with the pallid slackness of it. At some point his brother had bitten his lower lip, fresh blood welling to the surface, but he gave no current indication of pain. If Sam's eyes hadn't been open and responsive to his every move, Dean would have thought Sam was unconscious.

Maybe he was taking a chance, but he couldn't stand to see Sam's arms pulled back over his head, wrists bound in leather. Not when Dean had done this to his little brother. Dean had stabbed him with a poisonous knife. With that, surely his little brother had been through enough.

With shaking hands, he fumbled at the restraint. The adrenaline coursing through his system may have been keeping him going, but it made him edgy, made his fine motors skills jerky and clumsy as he worked to undo the belt. When it was unloosened from the headboard, he slowly unwound the leather and set it aside, grasping Sam's wrists in his hands once again. Slowly, he lowered Sam's arms until they lay on each side of his body, massaging the wrists gently with his thumbs.

Sam continued to watch him, large eyes blinking, but remained passive beneath Dean's ministrations.

Unnerved, Dean knew he could wait no longer. The purification ritual needed to be completed. Letting go of Sam's wrists, Dean perched on the side of the bed and scooped up the next jar of holy water and a clean white t-shirt. Dean wet the t-shirt with holy water and started washing Sam's head and neck. His brother leaned into the cool, wet cloth. Dean remembered helping his father bath his baby brother. Gently wipe the cloth across Sammy's skin. He's very fragile and we don't want to hurt him. Sam, his strong and sensitive brother, had been reduced to that same level of fragility. Laid low by the blood of the djinn, delivered by his own hand.

Following ancient practices, he cleansed the right side of Sam's body--arm, chest, and abdomen--before repeating the same path on the left side of his body.

Next came the part he was dreading. Holy water was effective, but Dean couldn't take any chances. Most purification rituals called for multiple methods of sanctification. Often water and fire.

He needed to cauterize the wound. The purifying elements of fire would not only seal the wound, which was still leaking steadily from Sam's abdomen, but it would cleanse it and help close off the infection, keep it from spreading. Sam's body had been through enough, and Dean didn't want to risk the deadened tissue spreading farther than it already had.

Dean walked back to their bags and withdrew a mini flamethrower; Dean had always been a pyro at heart, he'd just never envisioned using the equipment on his own brother. Now he needed to superheat a piece of metal and press it against Sam's flesh. Sorting through their possessions and then glancing around the room, Dean was at a loss as to what to use for the metal. He could use one of their knives, but he needed something wider.

Inspiration struck. His flask. It was metal and just large enough to fit over Sam's wound.

He reached into his leather jacket and withdrew it, holding it up to the light. Uncapping the top, he took a long pull from it. Feeling eyes upon him, he turned toward the bed; Sam continued to watch him with wide, staring eyes. Dean offered the flask to his brother, but Sam didn't respond. He didn't think it was a good idea for his brother to have alcohol, but if Sam had indicated he wanted some, Dean would have gladly given him some.

Dean dumped the rest of the liquid in the flask down the drain (brandy, a little something to steady one's nerves). He tugged on a pair of heavy duty gloves they kept with the weapons and, setting the flask on the bathroom vanity, he turned the flamethrower on. Adjusting it to its finest setting he fired it on the flask. When it glowed first red and then blue he turned off the flamethrower and snatched up the flask with his gloved hands.

"I'm sorry, Sammy," he said, walking briskly toward the bed. Sizing up the wound and then the flask he quickly applied it over the affected area.

Sam's back arched up off of the bed, but his arms and legs remained motionless.

The stink of burning flesh curled in Dean's nose. Tears leaked from his eyes as he held the flask against Sam's skin.

When the flask no longer glowed with heat, he removed it. His handiwork was complete. Raw, red skin blistered in the shape of the flask, but the bleeding had finally ceased.

Dean pulled off the gloves and sank down on the edge of Sam's bed.

Sam's eyes were no longer open and staring. He had finally, mercifully, passed out.

Dean stroked the sweaty bangs off of Sam's forehead and let his hand linger on his brother's cheek for a moment.

He wanted nothing more than to rest. But he needed to disinfect the cauterized area and place gauze loosely over it. He didn't want infection to set in; the poison had done enough damage.

As with most things, it all came back to waiting. He could do nothing more for Sam for now. He'd watch his brother, try to wake him and help him drink a little, but healing was not a process Dean could control.

Suddenly exhausted, Dean let his head drop and studied the blood on his hands. He closed his eyes, trying to forget everything he'd just done, everything he'd been forced to do. But when he opened his eyes, Sam was still lying motionless on the bed, a burn across his stomach, and his brother's blood still covered everything, even Dean's hands.

Dean wondered if he'd ever get everything clean.

He sighed. It looked like he'd have all day to figure that out.

-o-

The bedding was a lost cause, and washing his hands had only done so much. Sam's blood was caked under his finger nails, and no matter how he scrubbed, he felt like it'd never get off.

Sam looked better at least. Dean had mopped the blood off his brother's body and had been careful and thorough in his examination of the wound. It was ugly looking, and would hurt like hell when Sam woke up, but it seemed to be doing as well as could be expected.

Moreover, Sam's breathing and pulse were fine, and his color was returning. Whatever effect the djinn's blood had had, it seemed to be fading, and for that, Dean was relieved.

With as much cleaning done as Dean could manage, he'd laid out on his own bed, turning the TV on with the volume low, in case it would disturb Sam. But he couldn't pay attention, not really, no matter how hard he tried. Because all the same thoughts kept circling through his head, and he couldn't let them go, no matter how he tried.

Glancing over at his brother, sometimes he couldn't help but wish it was different, that they were different, that maybe Sam would be better off without a brother like him in his life. That maybe Dean would be better off--happier, normal, safer if he didn't have the job of constantly protecting everyone around him.

He wanted things. He wanted things more than he ever let Sam know. He wanted a family, a life, a job. He wanted all of it, no matter how much he said he didn't. Because here, on the road, from hunt to hunt, life was just so lonely. Life was hard and long and for the first time, Dean really let himself understand why Sam left. Sam hadn't left because he hated Dean or even their dad. Sam had left because hunting was stifling. It was limiting. It killed everything inside and left nothing. It was a life of constant fear, continually instability, and no matter how hard he tried to make himself believe otherwise, it was unfulfilling.

He'd always told himself it was a heroic life, a noble one. If he didn't do it, who else would? That had been enough to get him by, to help sustain him.

It wouldn't last forever.

In fact, it wouldn't last at all. Heroism was a fallacy, and his call to duty was based on a lifetime of obligation. Maybe it'd been a lie all along.

He deserved more. Sam deserved more. Only now his little brother had resigned himself to it, given up all his hopes and dreams, and Dean had let him. Dean had watched it happen and had done nothing to stop it. He was letting his little brother become just like him, and that wasn't okay. For either of them.

But now their father was dead and the demon was an ever present threat. The days of being able to leave might be behind them, and Dean worried that all of his revelations were coming too late--for himself and for Sam. Perhaps his happy ending was nothing more than a dream. Sam's was probably nothing more than a nightmare.

With a sigh, he turned the TV off, tossing the remote to the side. They needed to talk about this. They needed to deal with it. There were too many close calls in this life and if Dean screwed this up, he wouldn't get to just wake up from it. This was the real thing, as real as the burned wound on Sam's stomach, and Dean didn't want to ruin this any more than he already had.

Sam told him it was worth it. Somehow he needed to tell Sam that it wasn't.

He just didn't know how.

-o-

The day lingered. By early evening, Dean was starving despite his early morning bingeing. He'd managed to force some fluids into Sam, but his brother was going to need nourishment just as much as he did. Unfortunately, Sam was still unconscious, or mostly so. Dean was able to rouse him enough to hold a glass to his lips, but nothing more than that. Sam would slip back into a gripping sleep the moment Dean let him go.

As far as Dean could tell, there were no further signs of complications. The burn wasn't pretty, but it was clean and sanitary, and it seemed to have done its job. The spread of blackness had stopped and Sam had ceased writhing in agony.

Since this was a supernatural wound more than a physical one, Dean had no way of gauging just how long it would take Sam to wake up. The blood loss had been significant, but not life threatening, and Dean had no doubt the pain had been unbearable. Still, with the physical ailment seeming to be on the mend, Dean would have expected more life from Sam by now. Which led him to consider the supernatural element to Sam's injuries--and the possibility that this would be harder for Sam to shake than he'd hoped.

Still, he wanted Sam awake before he left to forage for food. He didn't really want to leave his brother at all, but he at least wanted Sam to know where he'd gone. After all, the last time he'd gone off by himself he'd gotten himself captured and nearly killed. In Sam's semi-comatose state, he didn't want to bring up any bad memories.

That didn't help the growling of his stomach, though. Or the sense of foreboding that maybe he hadn't gotten Sam out of the woods just yet.

Then a noise drew his attention to the other bed. It was a subtle noise, a huffed breath and a minute creaking of the springs. Dean was up off of his own bed in an instant, going to Sam's side.

His brother was stirring--barely. A faint flicker of discomfort passed over Sam's face as he shifted again on the bed, seeming to be trying to burrow himself deeper into the sheets.

Sam undoubtedly still needed his rest, but he also needed food. More than that, Dean needed to see his brother awake.

"Sam," he called, putting a gentle hand on Sam's arm. "Sammy, wake up."

There was a groan, and a deep line furrowed Sam's brow.

"Come on," Dean coaxed. "I know you're in there."

Slowly, Sam's eyes opened, squinting up at Dean. His chest was rising and falling rapidly as his sense came back to him.

Dean grinned. "There you are."

Sam blinked, his eyes focusing on his brother. "Dean?" he asked, and he winced. Dean could understand why. Sam's voice sounded like gravel.

"Yep, in the flesh," Dean said. "How do you feel?"

Blinking again, Sam seemed to try to straighten himself cautiously. "Like my stomach's on fire. What happened?"

Dean laughed. "Well, let's just say you tried to do a little home surgery and it didn't turn out so well."

Sam was looking down at the bandages on his stomach. "What did I do?"

"Leave it alone," Dean admonished. "It's going to be sore for awhile."

Confused, Sam looked up. "It doesn't feel like just a knife wound."

"That's because it's not," Dean explained. "Turns out the djinn blood on the knife didn't really agree with you. It started...destroying the surrounding tissue. I found you in here with your hand in your gut trying to stop it."

Sam's eyebrows rose.

"I stopped you," Dean assured his younger brother. "I'm pretty sure you were delirious by that point with whatever the djinn blood was doing to you."

Sam looked back at his stomach, a little amazed. "What did you do?"

Dean shrugged, trying to be nonchalant. "A little cleansing ritual--some holy water, you know, the usual stuff."

"This feels like more than holy water," Sam said, raising his eyes tentatively up to his brother. "What aren't you telling me?"

Pursing his lips, Dean sighed. "The ritual called for purification by fire."

Sam's eyes widened.

"I cauterized it."

Sam just stared at him. After a moment, he swallowed. "Oh," he said. "Well, that explains it."

Dean smiled apologetically. "I didn't want to take any chances."

Shaking his head, Sam's voice was suddenly stronger. "Dean, you did what you had to do. Just like you always do. I know it can't be easy, but you've never turned away from your responsibility. Ever."

Dean averted his gaze. He knew Sam wasn't just talking about the cauterization.

This was what he had missed most in the dream world. More than saving people. It was Sam, the way Sam always seemed to believe in him that he couldn't live without. Sure, Sam could drive him nuts, Sam could be selfish and impossible, but in the end, he could still see the hero worship in his little brother's eyes. Knowing that in the dream world he'd abused that trust by taking Sam's money, Sam's girlfriends, was almost more than he could take.

He didn't want to think he abused it here.

"Sam, I'm sorry."

Sam looked surprised. "Sorry? For what?"

"For going off when you told me not to," he said. "For keeping Dad's secret from you. For never telling you that it was okay to want your own thing." Dean laughed slightly, shaking his head. "I don't think I got that until all this. What that felt like--to do something other than hunting, to have a home, to know that family was more than someone you hunted with."

Sam appeared dumbstruck, clearly caught off guard. "Dean, I--"

"Let me finish," Dean said, a little more gruffly than he intended. His voice was thick, and his throat felt tight. If he didn't say it now, he might never say it. "I always thought I wanted to hunt forever. You know, you and me and Dad. I thought that was everything. But now--after all that's happened... Sam, I don't want this life. I don't want you to want it. We deserve better, man. We deserve better."

Sam swallowed, uncertain. "I want you to have better, too, Dean," he said. "I probably never said it right, but that's what always made me so mad when you followed orders. Not just that you took Dad's side against mine, but that you didn't take a side for yourself."

"And what about you?" Dean asked, leveling his brother with the question.

At that, Sam looked away, his eyes looking for anything but Dean.

"Sam?"

"I just don't think it's possible," he said finally, and his voice was small. "All this stuff--with the demon. After Jess--I just don't think it's possible."

"Yeah, well," Dean said. "I used to not think so either. But I'll tell you what. We fight this thing, this demon, and we do it together. When we beat it, we're free. Both of us."

When Sam finally looked back up at him, his smile was small. "What if we don't win?"

Dean snorted at that, brash and full of bravado. It wasn't a question he would entertain seriously, no matter what. He may want more, but he wasn't going to stop being the big brother Sam needed. "We'll win," he said with a knowing nod. "Old yellow eyes doesn't know what he's up against."

Sam's eyes were pained and questioning, and Dean could see the doubt written in them. But instead Sam smiled, nodding slightly. "Yeah."

Sucking in a boisterous breath, Dean pushed to his feet. "You've got to be hungry," he said. "You've been out for like 12 hours now and I don't think you've eaten since last night. So tell me, what sounds good to you? There's, well, fast food, the diner, ooh--a pizza place down the way."

Sam grimaced. "Maybe just some soup."

Dean made a face. "Even in the dream world, you were a total wuss."

Sam glowered. "You burned my stomach. I just think I ought to take it a little easy."

But Dean just rolled his eyes, reaching for his coat. "Whatever you say," he said. "Anything else?"

Sam shook his head. "No, I think that will do it."

"I'll only be a little bit," Dean said. "Any problems, call."

This time it was Sam who rolled his eyes. "Yes, mother."

With a perturbed glance, Dean opened the door.

"Hey, Dean," Sam called after him.

Pausing, Dean looked at him.

Sam's smile was shy. "Thanks. For coming back."

Dean returned the smile with a cocky one of his own. "Anytime, little brother," he said, and he stepped outside. Closing the door behind him, he said again, "Anytime."

Finis

A/N (faye dartmouth): I think it should be a goal of limp!Sam girls everywhere to rewrite every ep with a limp!Sam twist in mind. We do it in our heads anyway, so why not share it? This is possible only because of sendintheclown's fantastic ability to make me do anything she asks me to. It was fun to write. I hope it's fun to read :) Because really, when don't we need more limp!Sam? Also, thanks and love to Rachelly who takes time out of her very busy day to beta.

A/N (sendintheclowns) – It's hard to believe we started this fic almost a year ago but we're finally ready to turn it loose. This was the first time I collaborated with anyone on a story. It's also the first time I explored my bondage kink and tried my hand at gore. Many thanks to faye for consenting to write with me (she rocks, doesn't she?) and our fine beta, Rachelly, who helped clear up some continuity issues among other things. I hope you enjoyed our limp Sammification of this episode.